Monday, January 18th, 2021
Dead bodies in body bags. Shelves.
Continental Funeral Home driver Manuel Aguilar handles one of the COVID-19 victims kept in a mobile refrigerator outside the facility. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Home » The Human Element » The Logistics of Carnage (PART 2): California funeral homes have now run out of space

The Logistics of Carnage (PART 2): California funeral homes have now run out of space

PortandTerminal.com, January 2, 2021

LOS ANGELES – Last March we published an article titled The Logistics of Carnage: How to Deal With Huge Numbers of Dead Bodies.

When the article was published we (and the rest of the world) were watching with horror as military trucks were being used to move the bodies of countless numbers of COVID-19 victims in Northern Italy.

On March 26, 2020, the day we published our article, there were 86,000 COVID-19 infections in the United States and 1,742 deaths. We wondered at the time how the country would manage as those numbers continued to grow. “What are the logistics of it from a health standpoint? Or from an emotional one vis-a-vis the survivors? This grim question is suddenly vitally important.” we asked.

Fast forward to January 2, 2021

March 2020 seems like a lifetime ago now. As of today, 350,000 people in the United States have lost their lives to COVID-19. Over 20 million have been infected according to Johns Hopkins University.

How bad is it? Associated Press today ran an article revealing that Southern Californian funeral homes have now run out of space and are unable in many cases to accept any more victims.

“I’ve been in the funeral industry for 40 years and never in my life did I think that this could happen, that I’d have to tell a family, ‘No, we can’t take your family member,’” said Magda Maldonado, owner of Continental Funeral Home in Los Angeles.

Bob Achermann, executive director of the California Funeral Directors Association, said that the whole process of burying and cremating bodies has slowed down, including embalming bodies and obtaining death certificates. During normal times, cremation might happen within a day or two; now it takes at least a week or longer.

Achermann said that in the southern part of the state, “every funeral home I talk to says, ‘We’re paddling as fast as we can.’”

“The volume is just incredible and they fear that they won’t be able to keep up,” he said. “And the worst of the surge could still be ahead of us.”

Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the crisis in California, has surpassed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths alone. Hospitals in the area are overwhelmed, and are struggling to keep up with basics such as oxygen as they treat an unprecedented number of patients with respiratory issues. On Saturday, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crews arrived to update some hospital’s oxygen delivery systems.

It’s feared that holiday gatherings could fuel yet another rise in cases.

Read the Associated Press’ full coverage of the situation in Southern California by clicking here.

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